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41 f


Martinka & Ferko Duda


ing performance by two of the six, the sweet-voiced harmonising siblings Martinka and Ferko Duda, who are both blind and very phys- ically disabled; they had to be carried onto their chairs on the stage. In Bratislava Jarmila Vlcková took me to meet project initiator Jana Belišová, and helped with translation.


Jana tells me “There aren’t many performances like in Kraków; mostly they sing together with a type of wedding band, with other musicians, that plays around where they live, and for that they sing what they think the audience expects. But if Roma people sing for themselves it’s more about what they really feel, more about them. I’m trying to persuade them that a concert audience is interested in what they sing for themselves, because it’s probably more powerful.”


Jana was born and raised in a village in east Slovakia, where there are a lot of Roma people, who are generally very poor. (Roma string bands come mostly from central Slovak villages, such as Hro- chot and others; in the east few can afford instruments and it’s main- ly singing.) Despite quite a deal of tension between ‘white’ and Roma, and her parents asking her not to play with Roma kids, she wanted to have some connection with them. She started to study ethnology and music science, and went to the villages and began to record mostly Slovak folk music.


he felt, though, that the music of the Slovak folk environ- ment is almost all collected, so didn’t feel there was space for her to do any more with it. But when she encoun- tered Roma music, and saw how even four-year-old chil- dren sang emotionally, it was very touching for her. She made Roma friends, and realised that the old songs were being sung less and less, and that there was minimal interest in this music. She felt it wasn’t championed enough, and that was what she’d like to do. That was fifteen years ago. She managed to get a grant to enable the making of the CD of field recordings Phurikane Gila – Ancient Romany Songs, released in 2002, and the beautiful book of the same name published in 2005, with photos, the lyrics of their laments and vivid descriptions of the people and how they live.


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“And then I couldn’t stop! There were more and more projects – songs for kids, dance songs, Christmas songs… I became tired, and wanted to stop several times. But then I said to myself ‘OK, who will do it if you don’t?’ So it continues.”


I asked about the emotional stress of working with these very


poor people’s music but being unable to help them substantially, for example with money, to change their situation.


“You know them personally and they call you needing help. So I tried a few times to help them, and found work for one of them. But it’s necessary to make a line between the work and private life. Which can be very hard. I’m an ethnomusicologist, and sometimes can work like a manager, and can sometimes help as a person, but our organisation, Žudro, isn’t for social work, it’s made for another purpose, and I have to let the people know that there are some kind of rules, and what is the intention of work.”


For this opportunity to glimpse just some of Slovakia’s rich living traditions, and much help and hospitality, thanks to Dajana and family, and Jarmila Vlcková and family.


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